Muscatatuck Oral History - Ann Bishop Interview
"We had three boys and five girls and they literally thought they owned the place." Ann Bishop came to Muscatatuck in September of 1954. She started as a head nurse, became assistant director of nursing, and then was a module director/mental health administrator. She retired in 1992. Her husband began working in the storeroom in 1954 and eventually became the business administrator, briefly serving as acting superintendent. Ann discusses family life on the grounds of the institution, where they had eight children before moving off-campus in 1970. Several of their offspring went on to work at Muscatatuck as adults. Part of the institutional culture she describes were divisions between direct care staff, who were local residents living in nearby towns, and the professionals living on-site. The latter were largely not from the area, with diverse ethnic and national backgrounds.
During the 1950s and 60s, the extensive farming, dairy, and hog operations that had developed since the 1920s were still in place. Staff had regular access to the food storeroom. "You could just about get everything you wanted here." When Ann and her husband arrived, Muscatatuck was accepting many children under 6 years old. “A nursery had just opened and it had 250 babies.”
Ann’s recollections include the tenure of several superintendents. She particularly admired psychiatrist Donald Jolly (1957-67). She talks about the tumultuous years of his predecessor, Alfred Sasser (1954-57), whose reformist ideas were met with resistance from government officials and politically-appointed employees. “In the late fifties people were employed here through politics. The county chairman downtown would call up the superintendent and say ‘I’ve got so-and-so I want you to put to work,’ and that person would come out and go to work with no training whatsoever.” Sasser and his leadership were subjected to a grand jury investigation of questionable motives. His sudden departure followed.
She recalls changes in treatment philosophies over the decades. “We had a school and it had about 250 patients in it and when they misbehaved in school they were sent to the units.” She recounts the firing of a principal after he had beaten a student at a time when professionals were adopting new ideas about treatment. Ann thought much of the punishment meted out was too harsh. When she questioned the use of the "quiet room,” essentially solitary confinement of children for as long as 30 days, she says the superintendent yelled, ‘Young lady would you shut up?’” Ann Bishop was interviewed at her home in North Vernon, Indiana in 2004.
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